Planning to Apologize? Don’t Use “Sorry for the Inconvenience”

People make all kinds of mistakes. When e-mailing or communicating with someone, for instance, they may write “bare with me” instead of “bear with me.”  They may also use the wrong word inadvertently, such as using “farther” when the correct term to use is “further.”

When people communicate a mistake, they typically start with an apology. Apart from the commonly used “I’m sorry,” they tend to use one phrase to soften the blow. This overly used phrase is “sorry for the inconvenience.”

What Does “Sorry for the Inconvenience” Mean?

“Sorry for the inconvenience” means that you’re apologizing for any action (or lack of action) that has caused trouble to another person. You’ll often hear this in the customer service industry.

An example of this apology phrase in action is, “Our website is currently down. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

Why the Phrase “Sorry for the Inconvenience” is Not Good Enough

Although saying “I’m sorry for the inconvenience” may be grammatically OK, this statement has a lot of inherent flaws.

If you’re going to offer a sincere apology to a customer or to anyone you’ve inconvenienced, you shouldn’t make “sorry for the inconvenience” your go-to statement.

Here’s why:

The Phrase is a Canned Response

The phrase “sorry for the inconvenience” is a template used by many customer service representatives. When a customer raises their voice and demands a solution, the customer will often hear “sorry for the inconvenience” from the representative.

The overused phrase lacks authenticity, and many customers are aware of this. They get pissed off when customer support agents use “sorry for the inconvenience” on autopilot. They feel like they’re talking to a robot that dispenses canned responses for every complaint.

Your Apology Creates Distance

Saying only “sorry for the inconvenience” can be inadequate. The customer may think that you don’t want to take accountability for your mistake. Source: Pinterest

People sometimes subconsciously push a subject away from themselves by using statements, phrases or words to make events seem as disconnected to them as possible.

When you say “sorry for the inconvenience” to a customer or any individual, they will feel like you’re not taking ownership or accountability. The apology doesn’t feel sincere, and you miss the opportunity to show that you care.

The Phrase Does Not Express Urgency

Saying “sorry for the inconvenience” without a follow-up statement leaves the customer hanging. It’s like saying “no” without giving a reason for rejection. The phrase itself does not give the customer some form of reassurance that you’ll resolve the issue or problem.

An example is when a website is down. Simply posting “we’re sorry for the inconvenience caused” on the main page isn’t enough. The webmaster needs to let visitors know what happened and when the website will go back to normal.

You’re Not Genuinely Sorry at All

Some companies have a fear or dislike of saying sorry. They believe that people will interpret an apology as an admission of liability. So, they strongly discourage — or worse, ban — their employees from apologizing.

This can be difficult for people working in the customer service department. If you are on the phone with someone who’s had a terrible day or a bad experience, what else do you do but apologize?

Unfortunately, the phrase “sorry for the convenience” can come across as a sorry-not-sorry statement. It’s like saying “I’m sorry if you feel this has caused you trouble” and “I’m sorry if you feel that way.”

Talking in this way is like dumping oil on an already raging fire. The reason is that non-apologies portray that the complaint is all in the customer’s head. You’re merely saying that you’re sorry about their feelings and not about what happened or transpired.

What are Alternatives to “Sorry for the Inconvenience?”

Don’t just apologize if you did something wrong. Give that person a helping hand. Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

If you want to apologize to a customer and make up for what happened, don’t say “sorry for the inconvenience.”

Use these phrases or statements instead:

“Let me help.”

Offer a solution instead of an apology. People complain when they’re disappointed. This isn’t because they like to whine, but because they want a solution to their problem. They want someone to hear them out.

Saying “I’m sorry for the inconvenience of spilling iced tea on your beautiful dress” won’t get the stain out no matter how much you repeat the statement. On the other hand, “Let me shoulder the costs of cleaning” will solve the problem.

“I understand your frustration.”

You don’t dismiss the complaint of a customer as a mere inconvenience. Instead, you acknowledge what they’re feeling and accept the blame. This will likely result in a better outcome.

Using “I understand your frustration” or a similar statement guides the response with empathy. This is a stronger way to de-escalate heightened emotions, as well as reach a solution that will be favorable for the customer.

“I realize this is disappointing.”

Recognize disappointment and take ownership of the situation. Show the customer that you’re thinking of their perspective. Rather than start with “sorry for the inconvenience,” begin your message with something that goes like this:

“I realize this is short notice, and that you’ve been looking forward to getting your ordered product on [insert date here].” You can take accountability when you use the right words. Also, including specific information in your statements shows that you care.

The next time you’re thinking of saying “sorry for the inconvenience,” think carefully.

Go beyond the usual sincere apology by acknowledging the problem and offering a solution.

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